The Nova Scotia government released a full breakdown of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union‘s demands, which they say total $508 million over four years — compared to the $41 million proposal the government offered.
The new numbers are being released as teachers prepare to start job action in one week, after the latest round of talks collapsed Friday with no new negotiations scheduled.
Teachers have rejected two tentative agreements recommended by their union.
In a background briefing with reporters Monday, government staff provided details of union requests and costs government associated with them. According to the government’s numbers, more than $342 million of the total ask from the union covers working conditions.
In negotiations on Friday, the government offered $10 million per year for each of the last two years of the contract to be used to address classroom conditions.
Below is the government breakdown of union asks and the province’s response:
1. Wage increases — $14 million per year
The union asked for a two per cent wage increase or an increase at the rate of inflation (whichever was higher) for each of the contract’s four years. The government says because it can’t predict what inflation will be, it calculated the cost based on a two per cent yearly hike.
The government is offering a two-year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent wage increase in the third year and a two per cent wage increase in the fourth year. The province says it’s willing to change the wage pattern if the union is willing to make concessions elsewhere. For example, teachers don’t pay into their benefits plan — the government said if teachers started paying part of the cost of benefits, more could be added to wages.
2. Service Award — $7 million per year
The union asked that the long service award, characterized as a “deal breaker” by teachers, be left untouched. The government wants to stop it retroactive to 2015 and payout teachers for their years accumulated up to 2015, but base it on their retirement salary.
3. Planning time — $42 million per year
Teachers asked for 90 minutes of planning time per week for “non-teaching tasks.” The government says that would force them to hire more teachers.
The union told Global News the planning time is for “differentiated instruction.” Union Spokesperson Angela Murray said right now teachers don’t get any time to create lesson plans for students who require adaptations or who have an Individual Program Plan (IPP).
4. Assessment coverage — $1.2 million per year
The union asked that teachers have their classes covered by a substitute teacher while the classroom teacher is conducting one-on-one assessments with students.
The government previously agreed to a similar proposal in the tentative agreement that was rejected by teachers in October. Negotiators said this should be covered by the working conditions partnership, not through the contract.
5. Prep time — $28 million per year
Sometimes teacher’s lose their 30 minutes of daily prep time to cover other classes when a substitute teacher can’t be found, the union says. The union asked that teachers be compensated for a day of wages if that prep time isn’t replaced within 10 days.
The government’s cost for this is based on the estimate that this occurs fiver per cent of the time over a school year. Government negotiators said this should be discussed at the proposed partnership committee, rather than in contract negotiations.
The province says a similar proposal was in the last tentative agreement.
6. Working conditions partnership — no cost estimate
A working conditions partnership, which would address issues teachers raise over the lifetime of the contract, was proposed under the last tentative agreement.
The proposed working conditions partnership requires the union, education department and school board officials who sit on the committee to agree to any proposed changes. The union asked that a binding dispute resolution process be added to deal with any issues the parties can’t agree on.
The province says this is in addition to an independent facilitator who would work with the committee. It rejected the idea because it doesn’t want an “unaccountable” arbitrator to determine changes to the education system.
7. Photocopying — $13 million
The union asked that photocopying responsibilities, including bulk photocopying of tests exams, assignments and handouts. be shifted to non-teaching staff.
According to the province, this would require hiring a new administrator for each of the province’s approximately 400 schools. Negotiators said this should be covered at the working conditions partnership, not through the contract.
8. Attendance policy — $13 million
Currently teachers are required to contact parents by phone to follow-up on student attendance. The union wants this responsibility shifted to non-teaching staff, which the government says would also require new support staff for each school.
The government told the union it wanted the issue to be covered at the working conditions partnership, not through the contract.
9. Discipline policy — no cost estimate
The union is asking that the province remove requirements for teachers to implement school discipline policies. Global News asked the union for an explanation of this proposal and none was given.
The government says it recommended sending this issue to the working conditions partnership, rather than addressing this through the contract.
10. Adaptations — no cost estimate
Teachers asked that the requirement to track learning adaptations through the TIENET or PowerSchool software programs be dropped. The government said it wasn’t clear if the request was to drop all tracking or just to change the tracking program because TIENET and PowerSchool are considered too cumbersome.
The union told Global News the tracking program is what’s at issue.
11. Limit number of students on individual plans per class —$20 million
The union asked that the government limit the number of students who are on IPPs to three per class. The government says approximately 11 per cent of students in Nova Scotia are on individual learning plans.
The government says that would require them to hire more teachers. It recommended sending this issue to the working conditions partnership, and said it would not put class caps into a contract.
12. Data entry — $13 million
The union asked that the responsibility for data entry be shifted to support staff at schools, which the government says would require hiring more administrators.
Government negotiators recommended this issue be sent to the working conditions partnership, rather than have it addressed through the contract negotiations.
13. Union veto on student assessments — no cost estimate
Veto power on all government and board-mandated student assessments was also proposed by the union.
The government said it would not agree to this because it ties their hands.
14. Eliminate professional learning communities — no cost estimate
The union asked for the government to cut professional learning communities and their equivalents. The government said it asked the union for clarification on this but none was given.
Global News asked the union to explain the request, none was provided.
15. Union veto on new initiatives — no cost estimate
The union asked that it also get veto power on any new initiatives from the government.
The government rejected the proposal because it would include giving the union veto power on new curriculum.
16. Class caps for all grade levels — $41 million
Class caps are in place from Kindergarten to Grade 6. The union wants to introduce class caps for all grades and reduce the caps already in place. The union also wants to remove the “flexibility” that currently allows classes to go over the caps in certain cases.
- Primary to Grade 2: 20 students (currently 22)
- Grades 3-6: 25 students (currently 27)
- Grades 7-9: 28 students
- Grades 10-12: 32 students
The government refused the teachers’ request to put class caps in the contract. The union says it considered this information “confidential,” and has not agreed with the price tags the government put on each of its requests.